The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is urging retail chains to get important food-safety information to consumers through their wallets and key chains.

The nonprofit group is applauding brands like Costco, Wegmans Food Market, and Price Chopper, that are using the phone numbers and addresses in its loyalty card databases to notify consumers they’ve purchased peanut products or other items suspected of being affected by the recent Salmonella outbreak.

To date, Costco, which requires a membership to shop at the wholesale retailer, has made more than 1.5 million automated phone calls and mailed even more letters to customers who have bought possibly tainted products.

The Food and Drug Administration’s list of recalled peanut products has grown to nearly 900, with items ranging from Blue Ribbon’s Gourmet Peanut Butter to Nestle’s Optifast Honey Nut ‘n Oat Nutritional Bars being recalled just today.

In a letter to retailers with loyalty programs, the CSPI said that companies have a responsibility to assist their customers in returning contaminated foods.

“Peanut butter is obviously popular with children, including very young children who are particularly at risk of serious complications or death if they contract a foodborne Salmonella infection,” says CSPI staff attorney Sarah Klein. “It would be outrageous if some of the deaths in this latest outbreak could have been prevented.”

Of those sickened in the Salmonella outbreak, 20 percent are under age five and 50 percent are younger than 16.

–Blair Chancey